Face it: Sports are more fun to follow when you’ve got something on the line, whether it’s money, prizes or just pride. We feel the twinge of nervousness and experience fits of anger when our boys are lagging, but when they win, we enjoy a deep sense of validation that all is right with the world. Last year, thousands of SURFER Magazine readers experienced all these thrills as they competed against each other and some of the world’s best surfers in our inaugural season of Fantasy Surfer. Check out this years Top 44!
1. Andy Irons, 26, Hawaii Price: $12.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 50-12 Highlights: Wins at J-Bay and Hossegor
Fundamentals: Irons battled his way into four Finals, three Semifinals, and one Quarterfinal en route to his 3rd consecutive World Title. His overall win percentage was a staggering 80%, but even more impressive was his 11-4 record vs. the Top 10, which seems to indicate that he has no plans of slowing down. While Irons has a history of being volatile, he’s managed to keep a fairly even keel during his reign, a good sign he’s growing into his role. Good starts are always key for Irons.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 40% Top 5: 88% Top 10: 99%
2. Joel Parkinson, 24, Queensland, Australia Price: $12 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 34-12 ‘04 Highlights: Wins at Bells and Lowers
Fundamentals: Parko was actually undefeated vs. Andy Irons last year in two meetings with the champ. Considering his 73% win rate and 8-4 record vs. the Top 10, he enters the 2005 season as Andy’s biggest threat. The title race would’ve been much closer in 2004 had Parko not missed three events to celebrate the arrival of his baby daughter; it’s a fact most surfers on Tour are keenly aware of. Parko’s strategic approach still needs work, but did improve considerably in 2004. The tour kicks off in his back yard.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 38% Top 5: 82% Top 10: 92%
3. Kelly Slater, 33, Florida Price: $12 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 42-16 ‘04 Highlights: 2nd Place at Lowers
Fundamentals: Ambition is now the big X-factor with Kelly. His 72% win rate is very solid, but not enough to keep him truly happy. He was void of any wins last year, which is a point that can’t be ignored. He also had a very human 5-4 record vs. the Top 10. If this overall trend continues, the lure of outside opportunities will grow for the king, further damaging his ambition. What’s changed? Nothing…He’s surfing better now than during any part of his reign. But if he wants another Title he’ll have to want it from start to finish.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 35% Top 5: 76% Top 10: 93%
4. C.J. Hobgood, 25, Florida Price: $10 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 30-18 ‘04 Highlights: Wins at Teahupoo and Chiba
Fundamentals: C.J. took nothing for granted in 2004 after a 2003 injury sidelined him for much of the year. His two victories and subsequent return to the Top 5 was a huge achievement that went nearly unnoticed thanks to Irons. But C.J. went under the knife once again in the off-season for shoulder surgery. Regardless of his health on opening day, his “take no prisoners” mindset will be refreshed, and his flame will continue to burn. Don’t forget this guy was a World Champion once already.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 21% Top 5: 68% Top 10: 89%
5. Luke Egan, 35, Queensland, Australia Price: $9 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 27-24 ‘04 Highlights: Win at Mundaka
Fundamentals: There’s not a whole lot left to learn when you’re a 17-year Tour veteran. The gentle giant got all of his best results where you’d expect a powerful goofyfooter to perform: Teahupoo, Tavarua and Mundaka; all world-class lefts. He was only 4-7 vs. the Top 10, but with a new stop planned for Reunion Island (yet another perfect left) the lead-footed spray chucker is licking his chops for what could be a memorable year. But he’ll have to add some more spice to his recipe if he’s to sell a Title campaign.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 19% Top 5: 75% Top 10: 85%
6. Taj Burrow, 25, Western Australia Price: $9 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 26-17 ‘04 Highlights: Win in Florianopolis
Fundamentals: Three of Burrow’s four WCT victories have come in Brazil, which is undoubtedly impressive, but also revealing. He needs better results during the dream-wave stretch (Teahupoo, Tavarua, Reunion and J-Bay) if he wants to be a part of any Title race. Like Slater, Taj’s motivation level is sometimes brought into question. Unlike Slater, he has yet to fully realize his potential. He had a 60% win rate last year but was winless against his foes in the Top 10. Winning a couple big match-ups this year is key.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 20% Top 5: 76% Top 10: 88%
7. Nathan Hedge, 26, New South Wales, Australia Price: $8 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 26-12 ‘04 Highlights: Finals Appearances at Tahiti and J-Bay
Fundamentals: Hedgy brought his boards down an inch in size last year and gained a mile from it in the ratings. He immediately shattered personal barriers by making the Finals for the first time ever in 2004 at Teahupoo. He did it again at J-Bay just to prove it was no fluke. His 68% win rate was a career best, and his 6-7 record vs. the Top 10 indicates he’s gained enough confidence to go even higher. Reunion should help this highly charged goofy prove that last year as a whole was no fluke.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 7% Top 5: 50% Top 10: 73%
8. Sunny Garcia, 35, Hawaii Price: $8 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 30-20 ‘04 Highlights: Winner of the Vans Triple Crown
Fundamentals: After stewing in his juices for two straight years because of injuries, Garcia tapped his pent-up aggression (some stemming from this here Annual Review) with a stellar 2004 comeback. His 7-5 record vs. the Top 10 and untouchable 6th Triple Crown Title made for some tasty icing on his comeback cake. His return to the Top 10 in the ratings is fair warning to those around him that big daddy is back, and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon. A few modifications to his familiar repertoire will serve him well.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 14% Top 5: 55% Top 10: 75%
9. Damien Hobgood, 25, Florida Price: $8 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 22-15 ‘04 Highlights: First WCT Win at Tavarua
Fundamentals: Damien’s maiden Tour victory and 62% overall win rate (up from 56% the previous year) helped him crack the Top 10 for the first time. Late-season shoulder surgery (the same exact surgery his brother just had) kept him out of the Pipe Masters, and probably the Top 5. But, as his 1-4 record vs. the Top 10 indicates, Damien will have to press harder on the throttle to keep climbing the ratings. Avoiding early round losses is key to Damien, who’s very much a momentum player.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 11% Top 5: 48% Top 10: 77%
10. Peterson Rosa, 30, Brazil Price: $7 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 23-23 ‘04 Highlights: 5ths in France, Spain and Brazil
Fundamentals: Just when it looked like the aging veteran was done, a string of 5th Place finishes brought him out of the cellar and into the Top 10. But his lackluster 50% win rate and woeful 1-8 record vs. the Top 10 indicate he’ll have a tough time going any higher. It’s worth noting that Rosa does best when conditions are less then ideal. He battles through the bumpy, lumpy, blown-out stuff better than anyone on Tour, but his weaknesses are exposed when conditions get ideal.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 0% Top 5: 4% Top 10: 37%
11. Jake Paterson, Age: 32, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $7 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 25-20 2004 Highlights: 3rd Place at J-Bay
Fundamentals: Paterson finished 11th for the second year in a row, but his 0-5 record vs. the Top 10 in 2004 was a huge plunge from the year previous, when he actually dominated Andy Irons with a 6-1 record. His overall win rate also dropped a full 7 points to 55%. Some would look at these numbers and say this turnaround in the chart is signaling a peak in his ratings, but Paterson is a proven battler who knows how to address his weaknesses and remedy them. This will remain Paterson territory.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 0% Top 5: 8% Top 10: 39%
12. Mark Occhilupo, Age: 38, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $7 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 24-21 2004 Highlights: Back-to-Back 5th Place Finishes in Oz
Fundamentals: Once again, Occy came out of the gates firing on all cylinders in 2004. He had multiple Quarterfinal appearances early on in the season before falling back in the second half. This has become about as familiar a trend as gas prices going up in summer. That being said, the 38-year-old icon still had a 3-4 record vs. the Top 10, and climbed four slots in the ratings from last year, which means he’s still thriving on the big match-ups, and one has to believe Occy’s looking forward to a reunion with Reunion Island.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 0% Top 5: 8% Top 10: 38%
13. Michael Lowe, Age: 28, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $6 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 22-20 2004 Highlights: Win in Queensland
Fundamentals: Lowey’s win in last year’s season opener put him atop the ratings for a brief moment, but he’s been slipping since 2002 with 6th, 8th and now 13th Place finishes in the ratings, respectively. His 3-3 record vs. the Top 10 indicates he’s too good to drop much lower, but this is slippery-slope territory in the ratings. Lowey’s powerful backhand is his big asset, and he always does better when conditions are solid, but he’ll need to rely on his forehand more this year to keep him in the fight.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 0% Top 5: 7% Top 10: 37%
14. Cory Lopez, Age: 28, Home: Florida Fantasy Surfer Price: $6 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 25-21 2004 Highlights: 5th Place at Pipeline
Fundamentals: Cory’s entire year was salvaged in Hawaii with his Semifinal finish at Pipeline. The rest of the season was a shocker for the high-flying Floridian, as he failed to deliver at Teahupoo and Tavarua, where he’s usually considered a huge threat. He still will be in 2005, but Cory will be looking to improve on his 5-7 record vs. the Top 10 and his overall win percentage, which dropped 9 points to 55%. Having his brother Shea back from injury should help him in that effort, as the elder Lopez is quite the strategist.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 0% Top 5: 10% Top 10: 39%
15. Kalani Robb, Age: 28, Home: Hawaii Fantasy Surfer Price: $6 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 26-21 2004 Highlights: 3rd Place Finish at Pipeline
Fundamentals: Kalani had a rough time getting any kind of momentum going in early 2004. It’s further evidence that this fitness fanatic needs to flex his mental muscles more often, a point he himself acknowledged before his late-season push back into the Top 16. Kalani finished up five slots on the year, and belongs higher, but for the past three years his win rate vs. the Top 10 has only been a meager 25%, at 7-22. Translation: he’s psyching himself out in the big heats. From here on up, it’s all in the head.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 0% Top 5: 11% Top 10: 42%
16. Daniel Wills, Age: 29, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $5.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 20-21 2004 Highlights: 5th Place Finishes at Teahupoo and Lowers
Fundamentals: Willsy is not at all the flashy type, which is why he remains almost anonymous to Joe Six-Pack, but he’s still one of the most respected surfers on Tour five years removed from his World Title hunt. Willsy had one of the highest scoring heats of the year at Teahupoo, and is dangerous in all conditions, but his 51% overall win rate and 0-3 record vs. the Top 10 point to a mounting struggle in moving up significantly. He needs to bring his inner fire to the surface.
2005 Possibilities: World Title: 0% Top 5: 6% Top 10: 27%
17. Phillip MacDonald, Age: 26, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $5.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 21-22 2004 Highlights: 2nd Place at Mundaka
Fundamentals: Macca slipped down from his 13th Place finish in 2003, but proved once again that he belongs in the big leagues with a Finals appearance at Mundaka. His 5-7 record vs. the Top 10 demands some respect from those above him, and so too does his powerful backhand attack, which, if he takes advantage of it, could take him higher in 2005. His surfing is a blue-collar slugfest. Phil knows he belongs now, but guys like him can’t afford any mistakes.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 7% Top 10: 29% Top 16: 52%
18. Dean Morrison, Age: 24, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $6 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 26-16 2004 Highlights: 5th Place at Tavarua
Fundamentals: 2004 proved to be a slippery one for Morrison despite his impressive 61% overall win rate. His Coolie Crew mates Parko and Fanning were absent during crucial moments, making life on the road tough and lonely. But they’re back now, and Morrison’s new deal with Volcom should bring him the comfort he needs to focus on bettering last year’s winless record vs. the Top 10, getting past the Quarterfinals, and adding some flair to his precision approach.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 10% Top 10: 36% Top 16: 58%
19. Paulo Moura, Age: 25, Home: Brazil Fantasy Surfer Price: $4.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 22-25 2004 Highlights: 5th Place at Pipeline
Fundamentals: Proved himself the most driven guy on Tour in 2004. Insiders note that he’s the first guy out nearly everyday during pre-heat warm-up sessions. Moura really applied himself to Pipeline and Teahupoo. Paulo knows how the game is played, but still needs to work on adapting his approaches to different waves. Though he’s just one spot behind Morrison, he has a 15% lower overall win rate, was only 3-9 vs. the Top 10, and only had one result above 9th Place.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 0% Top 10: 8% Top 16: 25%
20. Tom Whitaker, Age: 25, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $4.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 17-19 2004 Highlights: 3rd Place in Queensland
Fundamentals: Finished 16 slots higher than the previous year thanks in large part to his great start, with a 3rd Place finish in the season opener of 2004. But Whitaker remains very spotty with consistent 33rd Place results. He has yet to convince many others that he belongs on the WCT, even though he does. His 47% overall win rate is up from 23% the previous year, when it was the record low. The up-tick should continue, but not without significant bumps. If he can reduce his early round losses, the Top 16 is achievable.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 2% Top 10: 12% Top 16: 36%
21. Tim Curran, Age: 27, Home: California Fantasy Surfer Price: $4.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 21-20 2004 Highlights: 3rd Place at Tavarua
Fundamentals: Lost to fellow light-foots Taj Burrow and Kalani Robb a combined five times in 2004, but nevertheless had a breakout year after a series of weak seasons. Curran looked much more comfortable this year, and was rewarded with a 16% rise in overall win rate and a significant 13-slot jump in the ratings because of it. Still, this 27-year-old former Title contender is a long way off his high, so room for growth is abundant, especially in waves of the flat-face variety.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 7% Top 10: 18% Top 16: 32%
22. Taylor Knox, Age: 33, Home: California Fantasy Surfer Price: $4.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 18-23 2004 Highlights: 3rd Place in Queensland
Fundamentals: Nathan Hedge and Phil MacDonald both made their climbs on the back of Knox, who lost to those two surfers a combined five times. Taylor’s win rate dipped 12 percentage points and fell well below the 50% mark in 2004, and he was just 1-6 vs. the Top 10, which explains his slide down from 7th the previous year. While most surfers on Tour need more focus, Knox would actually be well served to take his mind off heats with a few beers the night before, and simplify his game plan to one based on instinct.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 8% Top 10: 22% Top 16: 38%
23. Bruce Irons, Age: 24, Home: Hawaii Fantasy Surfer Price: $6 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 26-22 2004 Highlights: 2nd Place in France
Fundamentals: Bruce took his fair share of freshman year lumps before solidifying his slot on the 2005 WCT, leaving everyone on edge in the process. But his 54% overall win rate is solid for a rookie; so too is his 5-8 record vs. the Top 10. His strong finish at Pipe combined with his prominent Eddie win should give him the confidence he needs to get up where he belongs, and his stats reveal a climb is very likely. The younger Irons has to be considered most likely to succeed this year, since the freshman jitters are now behind him.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 14% Top 10: 68% Top 16: 88%
24. Lee Winkler, Age: 27, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $5.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 22-16 2004 Highlights: 5th Place at J-Bay
Fundamentals: As we predicted in last year’s report, Wink began putting the WCT puzzle pieces together in 2004. His overall win rate jumped a whopping 23 points to a very respectable 57%, as the result of having no 33rd Place finishes (early round losses) the entire year. He lost three times to Andy Irons, but was 2-1 vs. the rest of the Top 10. If he speeds his surfing up, he’ll only be doing himself more favors. These numbers all indicate solid growth potential for Wink.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 3% Top 10: 19% Top 16: 34%
25. Raoni Monteiro, Age: 23, Home: Brazil Fantasy Surfer Price: $5.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 16-23 2004 Highlights: 5th Place at Hossegor
Fundamentals: Raoni’s 41% overall win rate isn’t great, but it isn’t bad for a rookie either, especially since he made his few wins count by rolling into a few late rounds and ended on a higher note trending upwards. Raoni is by far the most respected Brazilian on Tour. He beat our expectations by qualifying through the WCT, rather than the WQS, so we’re expecting a slow steady climb from here in the years to come. The Top 10 is an eventual certainty in years to come.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 7% Top 10: 22% Top 16: 42%
26. Pat O’Connell, Age: 33, Home: California Fantasy Surfer Price: FREE
2004 Wins/Losses: 15-22 2004 Highlights: 3rd Place at Bells
Fundamentals: After a couple years of backdoor entry back into the WCT through the injury wildcard slot, O’Connell did it on his own in 2004, proving to himself as well as everyone else that he belonged. But after more than a decade on Tour, O’Connell is over the Tour, and has decided to hang up his contest jersey to go join his Momentum Generation cohorts having fun on the sidelines. While he’s gone public with the plan, he’s waiting to officially tell the ASP; that way it’s clear he’s doing it on his terms.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 0% Top 10: 0% Top 16: 0%
27. Darren O’Rafferty, Age: 26, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $4.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 19-23 2004 Highlights: Back-to-Back 5ths at Chiba and Trestles
Fundamentals: O’Rafferty entered the 2004 season hoping to validate the notion that he belongs in the big leagues by making the WCT cutoff instead of re-qualifying through the dreaded WQS (World Qualifying Series). His win rate only ticked up 5 points to 45%, and he gained some much-needed confidence by coming out ahead vs. the Top 10 with a 6-4 record. Topping it off, he clinched through the WCT in the final event of the year at Pipeline. It’ll never be a cakewalk for O’Rafferty, but he could climb into the Top 20.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 0% Top 10: 15% Top 16: 31%
28. Richard Lovett, Age: 32, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $3.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 16-19 2004 Highlights: 9th at J-Bay
Fundamentals: Though it’s difficult to call any 9th Place finish a highlight, Lovett at least put up a decent fight against Andy Irons when he lost at J-Bay. Other than that, 2004 was a year he needs to forget. His early round match-ups vs. the Top 10 were the story of his season. He was just 3-9 against that crowd, which dropped him 11 slots in the ratings. The bright side? He’ll have a much better chance to win some early heats now that he’s not paired up with Irons in the First Round.
2005 Possibilities: Top 5: 0% Top 10: 16% Top 16: 29%
29. Neco Padaratz, Age: 28, Home: Brazil Fantasy Surfer Price: $3.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 18-20 2004 Highlights: 9th in Queensland
Fundamentals: Neco is unabashedly the biggest fence-rider there is. He surfs both the WQS and the WCT to hedge his bets and secure his spot on Tour. He can do this and stay on Tour for as long as he wants, even with new WQS rules that will force him to start in earlier rounds. On the ‘CT in 2004, Neco surfed Teahupoo for the first time in four years, but his stats continued to slump with a 2-6 record vs. the Top 10 and 47% overall win rate. If he’s yearning for significance, he’ll have to get off that fence and channel his energy.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 10% Top 16: 12% WCT Cutoff: 28%
30. Trent Munro, Age: 26, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $3 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 20-18 2004 Highlights: 9th in Tahiti
Fundamentals: Simply put, Munro failed to meet expectations in 2004, even though his WCT stats improved moderately. He reached the Fourth Round just three times, and failed to advance into the Quarterfinals in each, which means he didn’t reach the heights he did the previous year. What’s worse, however, is he had more early-round exits in ‘04 than ‘03. Once he shakes it off, Munro should cling to his 5-3 record against the Top 10, which is very respectable and more revealing of his potential.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 12% Top 16: 15% WCT Cutoff: 33%
31. Troy Brooks, Age: 25, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $2 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 17-20 2004 Highlights: 9th in Tahiti
Fundamentals: The highlight of Brooksie’s year on the WCT was a single ride at Teahupoo where he actually doggie-doored a thick curtain of falling lip and emerged with his head and body intact to advance. Sadly, it was his only trip into the Fourth Round the entire year. It’s hard to tell yet if the judges respect his unorthodox style. Troy won a WQS event in France, but was still teetering on the qualifying bubble to the very end. His situation will remain volatile.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 7% Top 16: 12% WCT Cutoff: 30%
32. Marcelo Nunes, Age: 25, Home: Brazil Fantasy Surfer Price: $1.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 11-22 2004 Highlights: Six 17th Place Finishes
Fundamentals: Marcelo has yet to adapt to the brand of surfing required on the WCT. The better the waves get, the worse he does, which is a bit ironic being that Marcelo is a big guy. His overall win rate on the WCT was a woeful 33%, and just 25% against the Top 10. Marcelo was also the last man to officially squeak through the WQS window. It’s pretty obvious that he’ll need the ‘QS to survive any longer, as his WCT hopes are dim.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 0% Top 16: 2% WCT Cutoff: 8%
33. Shane Beschen, Age: 33, Home: Hawaii Fantasy Surfer Price: $4.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 15-19 2004 Highlights: String of Three 9ths to End Season
Fundamentals: After battling his way back onto the WCT through the WQS in 2003, Beschen’s 2004 assault up the ladder was interrupted by an injury that forced him out of three events early in the year, which spelled doom for Besh in the ratings, and forced him to lobby for one of three injury wildcard slots at year’s end. His run of 9th Place finishes and his impressive 7-9 standing against the Top 10 was enough to earn him the vote. Beschen will do damage this year.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 8% Top 16: 16% WCT Cutoff: 52%
34. Toby Martin, Age: 31, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $1.9 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 14-24 2004 Highlights: 5th at Bells
Fundamentals: Seemingly a shoo-in for the WCT cutoff after his 5th Place finish at Bells, but a string of 33rd Place finishes that followed blew all chances. Tight-arc turns work well on the WQS, but he needs to draw things out on the WCT. His win at the 6-Star ‘QS event in the Maldives helped secure his 10th Place rating, which earned him his slot on this year’s Tour. Toby knows full well he needs to better his 36% overall win rate on the WCT. Whether he can is another question.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 0% Top 16: 2% WCT Cutoff: 25%
35. Mick Fanning, Age: 23, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $3.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 9-7 2004 Highlights: 5th Place at Bells
Fundamentals: Mick was looking poised for a run at the Title before a bad leg injury sidelined him for the season. The injury was very severe, with muscle tearing away from bone, but word on the street is Mick is steadily working his way back into shape. He was a shoo-in for the injury wildcard, having finished 4th in the world in 2003. Mick would be well served to not push his luck with his leg. Even in slow motion he’s faster than 80% of the surfers on Tour. Baby steps should take him into the Top 16.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 28% Top 16: 61% WCT Cutoff: 82%
36. Greg Emslie, Age: 29, Home: South Africa Fantasy Surfer Price: $1.9 million
2004 Wins/Losses: 12-24 2004 Highlights: 5th at J-Bay
Fundamentals: The South African veteran has spent the better part of a decade straddling the WQS/WCT fence, and there’s little to indicate anything’s going to change. Emslie is a solid surfer who usually has little problem qualifying through the WQS, but he’s simply not feared by others on the WCT. His biggest strength is right-hand pointbreaks, as he proved with his 5th Place finish at Jeffreys Bay, but hollow lefts are problematic, and his 33% overall win rate leaves much to be desired.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 2% Top 16: 9% WCT Cutoff: 27%
37. Shea Lopez, Age: 31, Home: Florida Fantasy Surfer Price: $3 million
2004 Wins/Losses: None 2004 Highlights: Fantasy Surfer Champion
Fundamentals: Shea sat out the entire year due to the leg injury he sustained during the 2003 Pipeline Masters attempting an ill-fated floater. Obviously, he remained mentally in the game during his time off, as he proved by winning Fantasy Surfer. The master strategist will finally be able to put his physical skills to the test again, and while you shouldn’t expect any miracles, Shea should do some damage on his way back into his rightful place, even if it’s a two year journey.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 7% Top 16: 22% WCT Cutoff: 67%
38. Luke Stedman, Age: 27, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $1.7 million
2004 Wins/Losses: WQS 2004 Highlights: Finished 3rd on WQS
Fundamentals: Steady had a solid year on the WQS, and has proven time and again he’s got what it takes to make it through the tough four-man heats of the Qualifying Series. But adapting to the big leagues has proven to be a struggle for Luke in the past, as his repertoire doesn’t quite match the wave quality found on the ‘CT, which calls for bigger, bolder moves. Even if Luke does break through to a late round now and again, he’ll likely be battling for ‘CT survival come season’s end.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 0% Top 16: 5% WCT Cutoff: 26%
39. Tim Reyes, Age: 22, Home: California
2004 Wins/Losses: WQS 2004 Highlights: Rookie of the Year in Triple Crown
Fundamentals: Reyes is the youngest Californian to hit the Tour in nearly a decade, and he has the advantage of qualifying close to the higher-profile shadow of Chris Ward, which takes a bit of that pressure off of him. Reyes is a blue-collar surfer who had to fight tooth and nail to get where he is. It’s an approach that should serve him well in years to come. For now, the adaptation to man-on-man heats and the WCT style of surfing should be his primary focus. He’ll take his lumps this year, but should break through on occasion.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 2% Top 16: 15% WCT Cutoff: 55%
40. Chris Ward, Age: 26, Home: California Fantasy Surfer Price: $4 million
2004 Wins/Losses: WQS 2004 Highlights: Qualified after three years trying
Fundamentals: Wardo should be very clear as to what the expectations are for him this year. Just as Bruce Irons was the most eagerly anticipated arrival of last season, Wardo is this year. He undoubtedly had plenty to learn from watching Bruce’s struggles last season, and Wardo’s under no illusion that it’s going to be a cakewalk. Heat strategy is simply not Wardo’s thing, but it’s a crucial part of WCT surfing, so he would be well served by hanging with some proven tacticians. This could be interesting.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 14% Top 16: 29% WCT Cutoff: 81%
41. Fred Patacchia, Age: 23, Home: Hawaii Fantasy Surfer Price: $3 million
2004 Wins/Losses: WQS 2004 Highlights: Won 3-Star Xcel Pro at Sunset
Fundamentals: Fred persevered through years of struggle and high expectations on his way to finally qualifying through the WQS, but he now enters battle-hardened and ready. Aside from winning the 3-Star Xcel Pro at Sunset and making the Finals of the 6-Star O’Neill Pro (also at Sunset) a few weeks later, Fred proved himself at the ‘CT level by taking advantage of his wildcard opportunity and earning a 5th Place finish at Tavarua. Nothing on the WCT will come easy, but Fred’s well aware of this, and should be up to the challenge.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 8% Top 16: 21% WCT Cutoff: 74%
42. Travis Logie, Age: 25, Home: South Africa Fantasy Surfer Price: $1.9 million
2004 Wins/Losses: WQS 2004 Highlights: Won 6-Star Rip Curl Pro in France
Fundamentals: Logie is South Africa’s fresh new face on the WCT, the first in several years. The lanky goofyfooter is a solid beachbreak competitor—he won the 6-Star Rip Curl Pro in France—but his test will be adapting his successful beachbreak approach to the reefs and points of the WCT, which requires a little more gravitas. Hopes of a nation are pinned on him, as well those of his South African peers hoping to follow his lead into the WCT ranks.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 0% Top 16: 7% WCT Cutoff: 37%
43. Bede Durbidge, Age: 22, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $2.5 million
2004 Wins/Losses: WQS 2004 Highlights: Won 6-Star Nokia Pro in France
Fundamentals: Durbidge proved to be one of the biggest surprise packages of the year on the WQS. The big man from Stradbroke Island has a solid spray-chucking approach that should play well on the WCT. While he’s unknown to most surfers in the U.S., Durbidge has earned a solid reputation Down Under, if for nothing else than being a standout local at Straddy. Don’t be surprised to see him break into the Quarterfinals at least once during his rookie season.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 4% Top 16: 16% WCT Cutoff: 56%
44. Kirk Flintoff, Age: 22, Home: Australia Fantasy Surfer Price: $2 million
2004 Wins/Losses: WQS 2004 Highlights: Won 4-Star
Fundamentals: Flintoff is another young Australian who came seemingly out of nowhere to qualify. His surfing is of the light-footed aerial variety, ala Tim Curran, as evidenced by his domination of the Australian air show circuit and his 4-Star win in the Canaries. While his above-the-lip surfing is impressive, it’s important to note that the WCT lineups are not known for their launch pads, and surfers who live by the air often die by it. Flintoff will have to adapt to a more rail-istic approach if he wants to stick around.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 0% Top 16: 12% WCT Cutoff: 40%
45. Renan Rocha, Age: 28, Home: Brazil Fantasy Surfer Price: $1 million
2004 Wins/Losses: WQS 2004 Highlights: 3rd Place finish in Brazilian WCT
Fundamentals: Rocha is a former WCT competitor who’s made his way back into the bright lights after a three-year stint in the minor leagues. Obviously, he understands what’s required of him at the big league level if he plans on sticking around; the question is whether he’s gone out and acquired the capabilities to act on that knowledge. His 3rd Place finish in the Brazilian WCT could be seen as a positive sign that he has, but the rest of the Tour has very little resemblance to Brazil. The road will be long and rough.
2005 Possibilities: Top 10: 0% Top 16: 1% WCT Cutoff: 18%